It was inevitable: Pokémon Go made its way to an augmented reality headset and it looks exactly like the future we were promised.
Military tech company Osterhout Design Group (ODG) has already put its augmented reality glasses on the faces of astronauts, deep-sea oil engineers, forklift operators, and military personnel. Now the company is looking to release a consumer product by the end of the year that will put Pokémon before your eyes.
“Youre seeing the real street and the real cars and suddenly a Pikachu is running around, it becomes magical,” Nima Shams, vice president of ODG Head-Worn technologies, tells Inverse.
Because ODG’s R-7 headset runs on Google’s Android software, Shams says the port to a headset was very easy and natural. Since almost no one has this headset or any augmented reality headset for that matter, this is still just a concept, but the idea is basically the same as Google Glass.
“Up to now virtual reality has owned the conversation,” Shams says. “But the advantage of augmented reality is it brings the virtual reality to your real life, and what we want to do is blur that boundary.”
Osterhout says it has a ring controller with a touch pad and buttons that wraps around a user’s finger and can track motion in space. This is how trainers would throw Pokballs in the game, and Shams says it’s much easier and more intuitive than the awkward random finger flicking with the mobile app. The company hopes to release a smart ring (one that looks like a real ring) with no buttons that would make the process even more natural.
The very early demo looks promising.
Koder, a startup that aims to pair companies with talented software developers, is also working on a more robust augmented reality headset version of the game that runs on Microsoft’s HoloLens.
Elmer Morales, founder and CEO of Koder, says it’s more robust in that the tracking is better so that Pokémon more often appear on surfaces rather than floating randomly in space, and it uses custom animations to turn the creatures 3D so you can walk around them as if they were real animals not just stickers. But Koder is still working on a mechanism to throw Pokéballs and is hoping to do it with real physical balls.
But it’s unclear if either of these headsets will have any real depth in the market like Pokmon Go has found through the mobile app, and for now, in the early stages of AR development, that’s OK.
“Today, consumers are certainly not going to go out and buy a HoloLens … For the low-cost, regular experience the phone is obviously the best vehicle for that,” Morales tells Inverse. “ Where augmented reality on a device like HoloLens comes into play is if it were significantly more inexpensive compared to what it is now, or in some special environment like a theme park.”